Tom DeLay wants Texas trial moved from liberal Austin; cites poll saying voters dislike him

By Kelley Shannon, AP
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

DeLay wants trial moved from liberal Austin, Texas

AUSTIN, Texas — Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay returned to court Wednesday on a mission to move his money laundering trial out of Austin — a place he calls a liberal bastion where he alleges a rogue prosecutor crusaded against him.

A Republican pollster who tested public opinion on DeLay as recently as this week testified that a large percentage of those polled in Travis County know who DeLay is and have a negative impression of him. Pollster Marc DelSignore also said a big chunk of voters questioned believe DeLay is guilty of a crime.

“I think the poll is very accurate, so that’s why we’re so concerned,” said DeLay’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin. “All we want is a fair trial, and we want a trial from jurors who aren’t affected by the unrelenting bad publicity about Tom DeLay here in Travis County.”

The former majority leader was indicted in 2005 on charges that he illegally sent $190,000 in corporate money through the Republican National Committee to help elect GOP Texas legislative candidates in 2002. He says he has done nothing wrong and that a trial will prove it.

During Wednesday’s hearing, DeGuerin presented news articles in court about DeLay from the Austin American-Statesman newspaper and its website and called lawyers who have been involved in scores of jury trials who said they didn’t think DeLay could get a fair trial in the county.

DeLay is asking that the trial be moved to his conservative home county, Fort Bend. Prosecutors insist DeLay can get a fair trial in Travis County and that the county is not as anti-Republican as DeLay and his lawyers claim.

Senior Judge Pat Priest has said DeLay would be tried before his co-defendants, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, who now face lesser charges.

Besides criticizing Travis County as liberal and thus unfair to DeLay, the defense team is attacking its former district attorney, Democrat Ronnie Earle, who they say sought politically motivated indictments. On Tuesday, in a secret hearing purportedly about grand jury proceedings, DeGuerin got his chance to question Earle.

Unlike other witnesses, Earle came and went through private courtroom entrances, out of sight of reporters and other members of the public. Attorneys and others were banned by the judge from discussing the closed-door session. On Tuesday, prosecutor Holly Taylor said Earle did not seek indictments based on politics and prosecuted Democrats as well as Republicans.

DeGuerin earlier said he wanted to quiz Earle about what he told to different grand juries in 2005, when DeGuerin claims Earle shopped among grand juries for indictments. It was part of a defense motion to attempt to dismiss the indictment.

Priest did not announce in open court any ruling on that motion, though he’d indicated earlier he was leaning against ruling for the defense.

DeLay, 63, has been pressing for a trial for five years while pre-trial appeals have slowed down the case. He served in Congress for more than two decades representing a suburban Houston area. The state charges cost him his leadership post, and he resigned from Congress in 2006.

“This is a travesty of justice, we all know that,” DeLay said this week. “The Democrats have been after me for 15 years with all kinds of frivolous ethics charges.”

DeLay learned just last week that the U.S. Justice Department was ending a federal investigation into his ties to disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff without filing any charges against him.

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